After her beloved grandmother Rozenn’s death, Morane is heartbroken to learn that her sister is the sole inheritor of the family home in Cornwall—while she herself has been written out of the will. With both her business and her relationship with her sister on the rocks, Morane becomes consumed by one question: what made Rozenn turn her back on her?
When she finds an old letter linking her grandmother to Brittany under German occupation, Morane escapes on the trail of her family’s past. In the coastal village where Rozenn lived in 1941, she uncovers a web of shameful secrets that haunted Rozenn to the end of her days. Was it to protect those she loved that a desperate Rozenn made a heartbreaking decision and changed the course of all their lives forever?
Morane goes in search of the truth but the truth can be painful. Can she make her peace with the past and repair her relationship with her sister?
– When and where do you prefer to write?
Ideally fairly first thing in the day (though I’m no lark). If too much else happens in the day I find my mind gets cluttered up with other things and becomes a kind of sponge filled with domestic concerns, family crises, the dog, what we’re having for dinner, etc. After a few years being peripatetic in the house as our children became bigger teenagers and needed more space, I’ve now reclaimed my son’s old room as my office. I used to be good at working anywhere, with anything going on, but I now need to be alone. No music. No conversation.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
Not really. I try not to overthink it. I work out the day’s objective for the book and fulfil it. Sometimes that’s a word count if I’m ready to push through, or dealing with a particular plot issue or joining two timelines together (I quite often write books with contemporary and historical threads.) The main concern is to keep the book moving, even if it’s in fits and starts. Sometimes keeping a book moving means taking time to do more research or let my subconscious catch up with me.
I’ve learned from harsh experience that getting words down purely for the sake of having fresh words is counterproductive and I only end up deleting them later on.
– Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
Sometimes my kind husband brings me a cup of tea or coffee. I don’t like eating at the keyboard.
– What is your favourite book?
I’ve never been able to narrow it down to one, but perennials are Jane Austen’s novels and anything by Anita Brookner.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
Occasionally I flirt with perhaps another pen name and new genre but it’s quite a bit step to take and I’m not sure I’m brave enough!
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
There was an elderly lady in our village who’d served as a glamorous young WREN during the Second World War. When we came to know her, she was always very stoical, doing lots of voluntary work well into her nineties, but she told me a story about losing a group of her friends one night in the war when they went on to a nightclub but she went home first to get changed. A bomb landed directly on top of the club and a lot of them were killed or maimed. She told me this story when she’d just been burgled and the police offered her counselling and she politely but firmly declined. A study in resilience. I based a character, Felicity, in my first novel, PLAYING WITH THE MOON, on her.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
Yes, always, though increasingly I use the notes app on my mobile or send myself an email.
– Which genre do you not like at all?
I think I’d try almost any book (especially if at a loss for something to do). I remember wet summer holidays with my family where you’d have to resort to reading the random paperbacks left behind in the rental. I can’t think of something I’d not read at least a chapter or two. Books that are purely romance in nature aren’t my thing but there’s a reason why some romance authors are so successful and it’s to do with knowing their readers very, very well. I find that attention to an audience and what they want has a lot to teach me.
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
I have honestly never thought about doing this, though I really like the psychological thrillers written by Nicci French, AKA known as married couple Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. I can’t imagine writing a book with someone so close to you but they do it so perfectly.
If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
Ah, this one is a bit painful! Until March 2020 I’d be off on a foreign trip at least once a year to research. No prizes for guessing what stopped that happening this year. I live just over an hour away from Heathrow airport and an hour and a half or so from the Channel Ports. Research for books has taken my to Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, Portugal and Brittany. I was planning to return to the latter for one last research trip for YOU LET ME GO, the first visit in September 2019 having been curtailed by dashing home because of several family emergencies. The book I’m writing at the moment is set on an ocean liner and I’d really like to visit some maritime museums. But at the moment, it’s too hard to organise trips away from home.
I really miss going off on my travels with a list of things to see but an open mind. Some of the best things I’ve discovered have been completely serendipitous. When we were kayaking off a Croatian island we found an eery old communist-era children’s home on a small isle, along with a memorial to some German prisoners of war who’d been killed. This was the genesis for THE LINES WE LEAVE BEHIND. A really wet day in Cornwall caused me to shelter in the archives of the maritime museum in Falmouth, where I happened to overhear the archivists talking about a new manuscript that had come in. Some of the material in this manuscript, which they photocopied for me, was really helpful for writing YOU LET ME GO.
I can’t wait to start travelling again, notebook and pen in bag and with an eye open for unexpected discoveries
Thank you, Eliza Graham and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the Author
Eliza Graham’s novels have been long-listed for the UK’s Richard & Judy Summer Book Club in the UK, and short-listed for World Book Day’s ‘Hidden Gem’ competition. She has also been nominated for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.
Her books have been bestsellers both in Europe and the US.
She is fascinated by the world of the 1930s and 1940s: the Second World War and its immediate aftermath and the trickle-down effect on future generations. Consequently she’s made trips to visit bunkers in Brittany, decoy harbours in Cornwall, wartime radio studios in Bedfordshire and cemeteries in Szczecin, Poland. And those are the less obscure research trips.
It was probably inevitable that Eliza would pursue a life of writing. She spent biology lessons reading Jean Plaidy novels behind the textbooks, sitting at the back of the classroom. In English and history lessons she sat right at the front, hanging on to every word. At home she read books while getting dressed and cleaning her teeth. During school holidays she visited the public library multiple times a day.
Eliza lives in an ancient village in the Oxfordshire countryside with her family. Not far from her house there is a large perforated sarsen stone that can apparently summon King Alfred if you blow into it correctly. Eliza has never managed to summon him. Her interests still mainly revolve around reading, but she also enjoys walking in the downland country around her home and travelling around the world to research her novels.
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